Virgil McKinney and Thomas O. Dillard (age 36) [on the right] - December 2nd, 1949. The full story.
Florida panthers were believed extinct in Arkansas until December 1949 when an adult was killed by two hunters near Sims in Montgomery County. They shot this panther near an old bear cave on Turkey Pen Ridge, up Croft Creek, Sims after their hound dogs had treed her up a pine tree. They carried the 134lb, 8ft big cat home then hoisting it into the truck, they took off for Mt. Ida where they displayed him to the school children and townspeople. Turning him over to the local taxidermist, they rushed home to patch up the hound dogs. This picture, of the big cat has been around a while, I think they might have made a post card out of it, and sold it locally.
Sightings: Do you think there are any pantherís still around? I do.
Yes, there is apparently still panthers, also large Lynx cats, and bobcats here, as folks often spot them. A couple of years ago, 2005, we were biking back from Big Brushy Recreational area to Oden, Montgomery Co. AR. on the forest road and my nephew was well ahead of us. He saw one cross the road in front of him. He was about 15 at the time. Nothing wrong with his eye sight and I believe him. He described it as a big cat. Said it was silent. Didnít even make a noise as it leapt across the road.
My husband saw a black panther in 1968 about four o'clock in the afternoon in a pasture when he was with Hal Goodner, of Oden. They had just finish feeding out hay and spotted the big cat about 50 feet away and gave chase in the side board truck and Hal set the dogs on her but she got away and in 1975 he saw a big yellow cat walk, she just walked, across the road down by the swimming hole at Oden, she came out of the forest, crossed the road and back into the forest, but it was not as big as this one. It weighed about 100lbs. North Arkansas sighting.
Arkansas Isn't Wild About Panther Proposal, March 21, 2006
Endangered Florida panthers are being crowded out of their habitat in Florida. Some suggest bringing the panthers to the Ozarks, where they once lived. But Arkansas wildlife officials aren't crazy about the idea, saying the panthers would be a threat.
The cougar story is written in the county history of Montgomery County, Arkansas and it involved a woman named Emily Stacey who had 2 or 3 little children. So the story goes, she unbuttoned the front door and started to go in the house and remembered she needed to draw water from the well. It was getting dark and she took the kids with her to draw water. When she got to the well she saw the reflection of a big pair of eyes in the disappearing evening light. It scared her so she took the children under her apron and ran back to the house, buttoned the door on the inside and dropped the cross beam in the brackets to be sure no one could get in. As she sat down with the children to dinner she heard a lot of commotion at the door, sounded like an animal trying to get in. She got got out her musket, and loaded it. She shot through the door a couple of times. All was quiet. Next morning she opened the door and lo and behold she tripped over a very, very big black mountain lion dead on the spot.
REMEMBERING ARKANSAS What mountain lions? I don't see any mountain lions by Tom W. Dillard
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette 2 January 2005
The news media tell us once again of evidence that mountain lions can be found in Arkansas. While the state Game and Fish Commission seems disinclined to officially recognize a breeding-size presence of these large, carnivorous cats, many residents of rural Arkansas claim they have seen mountain lions. And, if they have not seen one themselves, they know someone who has. Mixed into this whole feline debate is the realization that on the West Coast, mountain lions have ventured into the sprawling suburbs - and that a handful of humans have been attacked, with a few being killed. A growing number of people believe a conspiracy exists to officially deny the presence of these predatory cats - and furthermore, the conspiracists hold that local law enforcement authorities often misattribute mountain lion kills of humans to dogs or other causes.
My reaction to all this is to point to the historical precedents on the issue. Humans and the mountain lion (Felix concolor, commonly known also as cougars or panthers - or "painters" in the southern uplands) co-existed in Arkansas for most of the last 12,000 years. De Soto, the Spaniard who first explored what is now Arkansas during his 1541-42 foray, learned of the resident mountain lions; early French hunters and trappers encountered the large cats, and also learned to recognize their harrowing scream in the blackness of night. After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, settlers began to pour into the new American lands west of the Mississippi River - where they encountered the mountain lion in sizable numbers. What some considered the last "wild" mountain lion was killed in Arkansas in 1949, near Sims, in the vast mountain stretches of northern Montgomery County.
Silas C. Turnbo, an early settler in the Ozarks, spent much of his old age writing his memoirs, and stories about mountain lions get their own category in the 1995 edition of Turnbo's White River Chronicles (University of Arkansas Press). Turnbo paints a pretty poor picture of "painters." A 9-year-old girl in 1857 is stalked by a brazen lion; a "stealthy beast" nearly makes off with a 200-pound hog; a cornered lion lashes out at dogs and humans with fierce abandon.
Despite all the stories, despite all the tales told by red-nosed hunters lounging around the campfire late at night, it was the mountain lion which died at the end of almost every story. Mountain lions are by nature stealthy, and they avoid humans if at all possible. Once encountered by humans, especially if dogs are involved, the mountain lion tends to climb into a tree - not realizing that a lion in a tree is a clear target. Such an encounter occurred in Monroe County in the autumn of 1838, when the Widow McBride learned from one of her children that the dogs had "treed" a panther. Here's how a Kentucky newspaper reported Mrs. McBride's handling of the situation: "Having no ammunition, she sent to a neighbor and procured powder and lead, moulded some bullets, loaded her gun, proceeded to the tree and brought down her game at the first shot ... . The report [noise] of the gun started up another panther near at hand which ran up a tree within a half mile of the other. She again loaded her gun and killed the second, also at the first shot, from one of the tallest trees."
Nowadays our resident mountain lions are probably few in number, and it is likely they are young lions being forced into Arkansas from expanding populations in the upper plains. The Game and Fish Commission has received many reports of mountain lion sightings, but it continues to hold the position that breeding populations do not exist in the state. In 1987 the Game and Fish Commission entered into a three-year study to figure out "the mountain lion enigma," as one commission employee wrote. A Texas company was hired to conduct a thorough search of mountain lion habitat in the state. The Texas tracker combed the Ozark National Forest, as well as selected parts of the Ouachita National Forest and the forests around Mount Magazine. He found little to indicate a mountain lion presence - and he concluded that none existed. He noted that all the roads crossing through the national forests in Arkansas would result in many more road kills if a breeding population existed.
Those of us who consider ourselves conservationists must admit that facing a real live mountain lion along a trail somewhere in the deep woods would be, at best, a mixed blessing. Yet, I hope I shall live to see the day when that is a possibility. This sentiment was expressed by Harold Alexander, a young Game and Fish Commission biologist in 1949 when the killing of a wild lion in Montgomery County caused Arkansans to debate the issue of co-existing with this much-maligned beast. He told a newspaper reporter "the possibility that a wilderness symbol like the mountain lion could be lurking around the campfire's edge lends a certain appealing excitement to wilderness outings." At least we know that our ancestors experienced that "excitement" and lived to tell about it.